When did I first ‘discover’ the BBC World Service? Perhaps it was sneaky listen in the wee small hours when you could hear it on 1500m long wave or 276m medium wave. Quite why I was listening to the radio at 4 or 5 a.m. when I’d have school in the morning I don’t know!
At the time the long wave transmissions lasted just an hour or two whilst Radio 2 was off the air. The medium wave service was carried for most of the day and was really aimed at Western Europe and not a UK audience. Reception varied according to the time of day and the seasons.
What do I remember? Well Lillibullero before the news of course. Radio Newsreel with a theme that must have been used since the war (which indeed I later found out it was). Radio 1 DJs popped up too – John Peel, DLT on A Jolly Good Show (what a jolly British title) and Paul Burnett with the Top Twenty. Saturday Special with Paddy Feeney. Highlights of Radio 4’s Week Ending but retitled Two Cheers for… whatever year or month the clips were from. The film series Take One. Drama productions, often a repeat of something from Radio 4 but original stuff too, seemingly always directed by Gordon House.
Regrettably I committed virtually none of the above to tape, so no audio goldmine here. Nonetheless in this post I’m presenting some snippets that I did record between 1979 and 1982 presented in four montages.
The World Service is back in the news at the moment. The BBC has announced that more language services will close and that up to 650 jobs will go. And the old medium wave transmissions cease from the end of this March too. On 648 kHz (463m) since November 1978 the closure is perhaps understandable when the World Service is available on the internet and digital channels, though vast areas of the globe still rely on short wave signals or local FM. But clicking on the Listen Live button on a web page just isn’t the same as tuning your radio dial to catch a crackly fading signal, is it?
In this sequence you'll hear World Service newreaders Peter Lewis, George Eason, Mel Oxley, Roger Collinge, Lawrence Reeve Jones, John Gordon, Peter Reynolds, Pamela Creighton, Peter King, Frederick Payne, Brian Empringham, Meryl O'Keeffe, Barry Moss, John Wing, Keith Bosley, Peter Shoesmith, Michael Ashbee and Brian Spink.
This first montage from 1980 includes part of the World News read by Pamela Creighton, News About Britain with Peter Lewis, Take One, Radio Newsreel, 24 Hours with Alexander MacLeod, Outlook with John Tidmarsh and New Ideas presented by Sarah Mills and Casey Lord
This second montage from 1980 features the World News, 24 Hours with John Tuhey, Radio Newsreel, Outlook with John Tidmarsh, Letterbox with Margaret Howard, Sports Round-Up with Simon Reed and The World Today
From 1982 Waveguide with Brian Ashen, English by Radio, Discovery with Tony Durham, A Jolly Good Show with Dave Lee Travis, The World News read by Michael Ashbee and Reflections with Olga Franklin
World Service Newsreaders circa 1980